Monday, 18 April 2016

Lower Shuckburgh (a bit about butterflies)

Over the last few days we have seen all sorts of weather from balmy sunshine to strong winds and hail.  At least Karen has had some chances to get to grips with her new camera by taking some butterfly pictures.

Peacock butterfly - named from the peacock looking eyes.  This species overwinters, or hibernates, as an adult hence the reason why this one does not look fresh.  It is very difficult to tell the sexes apart on Peacocks

Jo visited us for a few days on her way back to Edinburgh from Cornwall.  

Jo in the disused church at Wolfhamcote when we had a walk on Thursday

Polly and Steve also stayed over on Thursday night as Steve had a meeting in Birmingham and Polly came up to Yorkshire with me on Friday to visit my parents.

Polly arriving in Braunston with sensible footwear
Steve looking concerned that I may not open another bottle of wine

Our friends Mike and Aileen popped over on Wednesday.  They have just got back from a few months in France where they have been investigating the French way of canal life - they are taking their narrowboat out there for a couple of years from next winter.  It was really good to catch up with them and we will miss them when they go away, although it will be a great excuse to pop over to France for a visit of course!

On Saturday we dropped Jo at Birmingham coach station for her trip back to uni in Edinburgh and I took Buddy for a wander whilst Karen said goodbye to her.  We came across an exposed part of the River Rea which used to flow naturally through the Digbeth area before industrialisation took over.

River Rea in Digbeth

By Sunday we had been moored at the Puddle Banks at Braunston for 14 days so, under the terms of our licence, we had to move on.  We moved 3 ½ miles to Lower Shuckburgh where there is a stretch of piling right next to a quiet road bridge where we can moor and park the car.  We won’t be able to stay too long as we are running short of water and also the internet signal is very poor.

Our mooring at Lower Shuckburgh

On our way to Lower Shuckburgh Karen saw the first Speckled Wood of the year but it didn’t pose long enough for her to get a decent picture.  We did pass this mallard with 16 ducklings (we saw her the previous day when she had 17).

Losing one a night is not a good average
Female mallard winding Buddy up - he was sitting on the back deck a few feet away

This boat had been moored just up from us in Braunston and the cat was a bit of a bully and would stay in the middle of the towpath even if a dog was approaching.  I generally kept Buddy on a lead when walking past her as he’s not really used to cats.  

The lady who lives on this boat has been painting her in this interesting finish over the last two weeks

We are slowly training him to leave ducks alone if they are sitting on the bank but he finds it so hard to resist them.  On Sunday when Karen and I took him for a walk we rounded a bend and there were chickens on the towpath, unbelievably Buddy came to heel as soon as I called him otherwise it would have been a catastrophe.

On our mini cruise to our new mooring spot we passed this group of boats that we have seen in the area many times over the years.  The box on top of the middle plastic boat is a cage of ferrets.  The black boat is one that we have watched being built and is now lived in,  The blue box thing at the back is a massive generator which the guy used to run his welding gear.

Continuous Cruisers on the Grand Union

We have also seen this couple in the past.  They moor up, hang coloured bottles in the trees, set up a tent and put all their china ornaments on a table.  They sit there polishing their ornaments, using the tent if the weather is inclement.

Man polishing his china.  Woman watching pensively

The towpaths are still very muddy and on the particularly muddy bits Buddy seems to think, “Oh well, in for a penny, in for a pound”, and madly rushes through, turns round and runs back through again.  He tends to get rather muddy lately!

Buddy going for it

We saw a few freshly emerged Orange Tips on Sunday but again none were obliging for photographs.  The caterpillars feed on Garlic Mustard (Jack by the Hedge) and Cuckoo Flower - both are pretty spring flowers.  The caterpillars are cannibalistic so the females lay their eggs singly so need to find many plants to lay their 100 or so eggs.  The males are the only ones that have the distinctive orange tips to their wings.  Orange Tips are generally the first butterflies seen in the spring that have not overwintered as adults; they overwinter as pupae.

Male Orange Tip

It's usually this time of year that we start to gather Ransoms (aka Broad Leaved Garlic or Wild Garlic) but we haven't seen any yet.  The stretches of Oxford and Grand Union canals we have been on over the last few weeks have been a bit too open and consequently not the right habitat.

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